Blue light Ganges

| 3 MINUTE READ | Finding hope in a flowing river

As we exit Dehradun airport, it flashes through my head that I have forgotten to pack my briefs. We halt at a shop en route. Hand painted name board, poorly lit interiors organised to store rather than display. I feel a wave of nostalgia. The owner is grateful for this morning sale. Untouched by capitalism’s relentless drive to efficiently standardise the whole consumption experience. For all its benefits, there is a price to pay for the growing absence of soul in the ordinary transactions of our urban lives.          

As we enter the ghat sections on the outskirts of Haridwar, what catches my attention is the speed of the river’s current. I am here with my 75-year-old mother during the Kumbh Mela. An event that returns in 12 year cycles, at which time a dip in the Ganges is considered deeply auspicious. An atonement of sins, a restoration of hope, a renewal of silence.  

Outside the hotel are steps that end inside the Ganges. There is a chain to hold onto while we navigate the steps so that we are not swept away. It ends at a railing barricade. I see a young Sadhu on the other side, holding it as he positions himself in the water. He lets go and disappears into the river. My eyes move downstream to search for him but he is gone.   

The water is icy. As I immerse into it I can feel my arteries and nerve pathways burst open with rapture.

We head for an early lunch to an eatery with the highest number of reviews on tripadvisor. It has the kind of dingy ambience that comforts me. An infant at a far table catches my mother’s eye. She strikes a conversation with the family. The child’s mother died four days ago and they are here to complete the rituals. The weight of that information hangs onto us. My mother takes the child into her arms and returns with her to our table. She sits and closes her eyes. To not experience a mother’s presence is to be left untouched by God itself. The law of grace is inscrutable.   

In the evening, Haridwar is overrun by the colour and commerce of rituals. We stay away from the crowds and roam the market instead. I buy a collection of beads for my wrist, to remind me to not get too lost in the world. We pass a food stall with mounds of puri and bhaji, where for Rs. 200 we can feed 15 hungry people, Rs. 400 for 30. An unsentimental group sits around the stall, ready to orchestrate a moment of charity.

Haridwar reminds me of how a jostling crowd in a noisy temple evokes a resistance in my spirit. Except on the steps leading to the river, whose cold velocity forces an elemental connection.

As we drive away early the next day after another dip, I ask Amma how the trip was. A dream come true, she says, as her face fills up with gratitude. It erases my sense of being underwhelmed. There are simpler ways to experience and embrace life.    

We make a brief halt at a cave on the outskirts of Rishikesh. It is a place I love that I am returning to. The floor inside the cave is hard rock, lined with mats to sit on. The first light of day is a quiet whisper behind us. In its deep and dark recesses, we sit and return to the constancy of the breath.

An hour later I leave Amma and trace my way down a staircase cut with stones until I reach the riverbank. I step into the river here, while it is still slightly upstream of town. My stripped body is filled with the vibrancy of the waters as the soles of my feet use the sharp pebbles to navigate me in. Thoughts and words seem archaic at the foothills of the Himalayas.  I settle into the river and submerge within until I am alone, floating in the blue light of the Ganges.

To be truly free is the slow certainty of having nowhere else to go.

-x-

(This post was published in the Sunday Guardian)

Blue light of the Ganges: From Haridwar to Rishikesh – The Sunday Guardian Live

49 thoughts on “Blue light Ganges

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  1. Having never been spiritually or religiously inclined, i can’t actually live the experience with you. But your feelingly articulated experience immerses, washes over, me.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Your descriptive writing never ceases to amaze me. “An event that returns in 12 year cycles, at which time a dip in the Ganges is considered deeply auspicious. An atonement of sins, a restoration of hope, a renewal of silence.” WOW! I learn so much and embrace it all! TY!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow!! Anand another marvelous read.
      I can well imagine the expression of ecstasy on your wonderful mom’s face. __ a dream come true for her.

      Your vivid description makes me want to go to the Kumbh Mela____ in Non Covid times ofcourse.

      I would love to take a dip in the Ganges and visit the fascinating cave ___ you have described so beautifully.
      Thanks a lot for sharing.
      Mina

      Like

  3. Though I’ve never been to the Ganges, or India for that matter, you’re words have the ability to take me there., even knowing this…
    “Thoughts and words seem archaic at the foothills of the Himalayas. “
    Just a beautiful expression of your wisdom.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I love the simplicity of your writing. Rather than put ideas forward, you set a feeling tone that points to ideas. Feelings are always felt when I read your writing. The writing is excellent. Well done!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Beautiful energy

    “To be truly free is the slow certainty of having nowhere else to go”

    I am.looking forward to arriving to this condition

    At present I am looking forward to some change …somewhere to go

    Haymantika

    Liked by 1 person

  6. It was like being there….in the moment. ” To not experience a mother’s presence is to be left untouched by God itself. The law of grace is inscrutable”….always, always love the simplicity that harbours in the mind.
    Beautiful read!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Sincere , Touching and Well written as always.
    Though,can’t help asking you, do even you Anand really believe that a dip in the Ganga can absolve one of the sins of commission and omission?
    Enjoyed the read.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I loved it . It took me back in time – 17 years ago. We had taken my mom’s ashes to the Ganges.
    Always feels good to read your writing .

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Your shopping experience reminded me of the honesty of these simple hill folks. Vidya and I were shopping in the main market in Nainital. She forgot a bag in one shop and we went about visiting other shops. After about 40 minutes, the shop keeper found us to return the bag. He had shut his shop just to hunt for us.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nice writing about your trip to Kumb Mela and how it made your Amma happy. Very brave for you both to go there during this perfect storm prevailing especially in crowded. places. Nature’s beauty is bountifully written. It literally took me off there in mind to enjoy. Thanks Anand.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Beautifully written, as always. An interesting aspect for me is how even education is unable to dispel the incompatible with common sense belief. India is indeed a unique country.
    Beautiful, especially the Himalayas.

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  11. As always – the pictures that these words carry come immediately in vivid details – and I enjoy it even though what you saw was way different 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  12. nice article, so true that there is no soul left in our day to transactions in urban india.

    “To not experience a mother’s presence is to be left untouched by God itself.”

    a very well written thought albeit debatable

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I enjoy every moment of my reading your wonderful write up of your recent blissful journey to Ganges with Amma.Believe me that your narration the moment you landed at Dehradun and the journey thereafter,I felt I was there .Excellent piece as usual.The picture of Ganges in full force was awesome.Keep writing Anand.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Gosh what a lovely experience that must have been to immerse yourself in icy cold water. This is one of my dreams too . To visit the holy places and see if they rouse any sentiment in me. I actually get quite put off by the crowds and the commercialism in temples and prefer to pray in the quiet of my home . But I believe traveling to holy place is transformative…..

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Beautiful narration, as fluent and meandering like the Ganges. Aunty with the toddler was touchy moment. BTW Ganges has different mood-sets at different places as she flows. Used to go on Gangaji Boatrides in Varanasi during my college days. Not tranquil and serene as in Haridwar/Rashikesh!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Dear Anand, Every time I read your post, I am struck by the awesome grandeur of Silence. You highlight it, in the most diverse of circumstance, give it nuance, even colour…. Amma’s holding the orphan child also has a very profound observation….. not to feel a mother’s love…. Is to be untouched by God . I was truly moved by your post.

    Liked by 2 people

  17. The scenic & serene beauty of Haridwar is fabulous & we can enjoy each step of our journey. Full of natural lush green beauty reverberated by the mingling sound of the Ganges is much more than required to soothe our heart & mind.
    However your narrative writing skills has added lustre to the Gangges beaty.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. I along with my wife spent 3 days in Haridwar /Rishikesh in 2007 before coming to Vadodara after retirement from EIL and experienced most of the things described nicely in your blog. It really gives eternal peace after taking bath in cold flowing water of Maganga

    Liked by 2 people

  19. Spirituality cannot be defined. Its meaning differs for each individual. A very vivid description with shifting emotions. A lovely capture of mother nature and the nature of human relations.

    Like

  20. Within your first few paragraphs I was immersed in a world completely different from my own. The description of you and your mother’s experience at lunch was particularly moving. This is beautifully written and I’m really glad to see that it was published in the Sunday Guardian (and that the trip made your mother so happy).

    Like

  21. I’m so glad to have found you. Your writing is absolutely stunning. Entwined in the sad parts of loss, is an overwhelming spirit of gratitude and life itself. And with your precious Momma. I love caves and rivers. It would be a dream to see this part of the world. I pray you are not impacted by Covid. 🙏🏻💛

    Liked by 1 person

  22. A goosebump phrase, Anand, “…growing absence of soul in the ordinary transactions of our urban lives.” You bring me right there, with you. Children often bring me close to tears…their innocence…our future. And then tears brimming reading your words. A powerful, moving, beautiful post. Wow! Thank you for this.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. ‘To not experience a mother’s presence is to be left untouched by God itself.’ A perfect read for Mother’s Day 🙂 and absolutely love how it ends.

    Like

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